Short Summary of RA Ombudsman's Ad-hoc Report on Election and Post-election situation in Armenia
25 April 2008
The 2008 presidential elections and post-electoral developments have immensely influenced on the entire system of protection of human rights. The main objective of this Ad-hoc Report /hereinafter report/ is a comprehensive analysis of pre and post-electoral developments.
The first part of the report illustrates dynamics of transformation of socio-psychological environment and main causes of its formation whereas receiving objective information on electoral processes was impossible.
The second part of the report is devoted to the election’s day environment and analysis of legislative grounds leading to its formation. The third part reveals peculiarities of post-electoral developments. Part four presents activities of the Human Rights Defender in regard with reinstituting of human rights during the post-electoral period.
In the course of examining presidential election developments, the report, indeed, specifies many objective problems leading to the formation of pre and post electoral situation in the country, particularly rising resentment in a considerable part of the society. In fact, many of these problems were described in the Defender’s Annual Report of 2006, the conclusions of which, regrettably, remained out of attention of authorities.
The cornerstone of the report is qualitative modification of resentment of a considerable part of society through biased form. Particularly, the noticeable social and economic polarization, mistrust towards public and law enforcement bodies, overcentralization of power, ineffective mechanism of checks and balances between three branches of power, insufficient guarantees of human rights, formation of a tightly closed system of privileged group drove a significant part of society to seek critical and dramatic changes to solve these issues. Eventually, a demand of extremist activities was formed in a considerable part of society. In this situation a number of political forces have provided an adequate offer, which intensified intolerance and polarization in the society.
The report refers to the aforementioned issues from the perspective of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of information. The objective of the report is firstly to emphasize restriction of freedom of speech for one part of the society /the opposition/, existence of unrestricted opportunities for the other part /the government/ including unlawful use of different power tools resulting itself in restriction of human rights, and secondly that it may offer “ill services” to the users themselves on the rebound.
Spiritual and material values in the society should be balanced and coexist in harmony. From this point of view one does not consider the opposition strategy being mostly focused on social concerns of a considerable part of population, deplorable human rights records, shortcomings in public administration, etc., instead of prioritizing economic development-related issues, such as construction of tunnels, highways, elite buildings. A number of state representatives were more enthusiastic in terms of material values while the opposition rearranged the strategy within political and intellectual values (civil freedoms, dignity, justice, equal rights).
Division of society into privileged “insiders” and the rest formed tightly closed system in the country, where democratic principles of governance were of artificial nature. These hampered the course of political struggle under the rule of law. Meanwhile, the opposition adopted the same extremist policy aimed at polarizing the society into “us” and “them”- “beguiled”. The extremist policy of one part of government and a part of opposition generated March 1-2 events inflicting the society to suffer. Thus, the society shall enjoy the right to demand political elite (government and opposition) to ensure absolute respect for human rights and tolerance shall prevail in the society.
The change of ruling political forces through elections, the exchange of roles between ruling and opposition forces is a key indicator of democratic development and an effective safeguard of socio-political stability. If the opposition forces are deprived of possibilities to replace the incumbent authorities through free and fair elections, and the authorities are democratic insofar as it secures their “normal” reproduction, then extremism in the political struggle cannot be avoided.
Constitutionalism is a limitation of the power, which precludes situations in the political struggle, when the winner assumes all political, economic, and social control, while the defeated side loses any possibility of survival. This is the type of situation that pushes sides
into a “life-or-death” struggle, laying the ground for the emergence of authoritarian and totalitarian political regimes.
The newly-elected President and the new system of government inherited a heavy burden from their predecessors. It would have been preferable to avoid it, but it could not be done, and now, everyone must now come together to overcome this situation.
The following issues have to be resolved in order to address this situation:
1. To ensure that the authorities function in a framework of public accountability, and to secure a strong opposition: this is the only case in which the authorities will no longer be able to subordinate society to their will. As a result, the opposition will not have to go to the streets, because they will be able to voice their concerns through legal and political means.
2. To reform the electoral legislation: in particular, it is necessary to revise the Electoral Code provisions on the formation of electoral commissions, the recount procedures, etc.
3. To safeguard the freedom of expression and to put in place conditions for pluralism and impartiality in the electronic media. Without pluralism, society cannot be free, and the authorities will not exercise self-restraint. To this end, it will be essential to reform the legislation on television and the radio. It is also necessary to ensure equal participation of the representatives of the power and the opposition in the formation of television and radio regulatory and supervisory bodies.
4. To rule out laws groundlessly restricting human rights and freedoms (such as the recent amendments to the Republic of Armenia Law on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies, and Demonstrations).
5. To safeguard the constitutional principle of equality of rights and to eliminate existing economic monopolies, which will help to overcome the oligarchic system of governance. This is the only way to enable people to realize their creative potential. As a result, society will no longer demand political extremism, and political forces will no longer generate such supply. Extremist ideas are born out of an extremely polarized society. If society is not polarized, no extremist idea can activate the broad masses.
6. To fight against causes, rather than consequences. To this end, it is vital to create an independent commission to inquire into the March 1 events.
7. At this point, it would be most dangerous and useless to imitate reforms.